Flying (Successfully) with Toddlers – Meltdown Free!

little boy watching tv in flight

This past Memorial Day weekend we took our first vacation as a family of four. While I was excited to finally get away after such a long, brutal winter of being trapped inside with a newborn, I must admit I was a little apprehensive about flying with two little ones. We’ve flown several times with our oldest, but there were always two of us to keep her occupied and take turns entertaining. This time it was more of a one-on-one situation. I put a lot of thought into what to pack and do while in flight. Thankfully it was a huge success so I want to share with you all some of the things I did to make the whole experience a little more enjoyable.

1. Arrive at the airport a few hours before your flight so that your children have a chance to explore and burn off some energy.
2. When they announce that anyone with small children can board the plane first, don’t do it! If you get on the plane early that means the longer you will be on the plane before takeoff. Board the plane as close to last as possible so that no one has a meltdown when they are restricted to their seat. Refer to number one and let them burn off the energy before boarding.
3. Make sure that your little ones have something to help elevate the change in cabin pressure they may experience during lift off. It always seems that during take off and landing every child on the plane starts to scream. Ever wonder why? The pressure change! Children don’t know that swallowing helps to relieve it, so you have to help them out. For babies, a bottle, pacifier or breastfeeding will ensure that they suck/swallow which will eliminate any pain they experience. For older kids a lollipop or a Sippy cup will do the job. You should do this for landing too.
4. A travel potty is a must for your potty-trained toddlers. My daughter always waits till the last minute to tell me she has to go potty so I must always be prepared. Sometimes a bathroom isn’t close or the line is way too long to make her hold it. Kalencom 2-in1 Potette Plus is the perfect travel potty. It folds up so you can throw it in your carry-on bag and it can be used as a stand-alone potty with a disposable bag or can be put over a bigger toilet seat. I keep one in my stroller and another in my car at all times! This was also great when we were by the pool. My daughter would run out of the pool and have to go potty so it eliminated the hassle of having to put her shoes on and head to the restroom. It also meant one less child peeing in the pool!
5. An emergency kit, because you never know when something can go wrong. Either put one together yourself or I took Bella Tunno Mommy’s Magic Kit, which includes everything from disposable bib, placemat and potty pad to activities (crayons, wikki stix, game card) and necessities like a bandage, baby wash, sunscreen and antibacterial wipe. Plus it comes in a cute little clutch that you can toss in any bag.

Bella Tunno - Mommy's Magic Kit
Bella Tunno – Mommy’s Magic Kit

6. Snacks! Snacks! and more Snacks! There aren’t always the healthiest snacks in the airport and you never know how long you may be detained (like when we were on the tarmac for over an hour!!!) so bring your little ones favorite (healthy) treats. They are also good to use as bribes if your child acts up! Hey you gotta do what you gotta do!
7. A stroller. We forgot our umbrella stroller for our big girl so my husband ended up carrying her a lot. If we brought our stroller he wouldn’t have had to lug her through the whole terminal late at night from the gate farthest from the baggage claim and he could have put her in it when she fell asleep. We learn from our mistakes, so we will make sure to bring it next time. You can take it all the way to the gate and check it for free before boarding the plane so it’s a no brainer!
8. Bring lots of things to entertain! I packed a small carry-on full of things for my daughter to do. I know that her attention span is short so I packed things that would occupy her for a while. Just when she would get bored with one thing I handed her something else. Get some new activities/toys that they haven’t played with before so that it is exciting for them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you can get some things at the dollar store or CVS that are fun and inexpensive. A few great things that I took included:

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 1.47.30 PMHot Dots Jr. – This interactive game will keep them entertained for a good twenty minutes. My daughter loved the alphabet one. It is an activity you can do together and it is educational.

My big girl playing with her Bella Tunno Imagidoodle Chalkfolio
My big girl playing with her Bella Tunno Imagidoodle Chalkfolio
Bella Tunno Imagidoodle Chalkfolio – If your child is anything like my daughter then they love to write on everything! This fold-up chalkboard is perfect for travel. It has 12 pieces of chalk and allows them to draw and be creative. Fits perfectly on their little lap or on the pull out tray. Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 1.54.16 PMPlay-Doh Soft-Pack – Finally play-doh in a bag! This resealable bag contains portable on the go play-doh with a shape cutter. You can purchase from amazon or I got mine at CVS for only $1.69! Comes in every color. I got pink and purple of course!
Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 1.49.06 PMWikki Stix – These bendable sticks can be used to create whatever their little imaginations desire. Can be used over and over to make anything they want.
Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 1.48.12 PMBicycle Classic Kid’s Card Games – With 6 different card games from Go Fish to Memory, this activity is sure to take up some air time.

Reading books, coloring books and crayons and their favorite toy (ours is bunny, we don’t dare go anywhere without bunny!)
iPad with their favorite movies. I always like my daughter to play games and do activities, but in desperate times I reserve the iPad. It gives you a chance to relax and allows them to relax and hopefully fall asleep.

So don’t be afraid to fly with toddlers. As long as you are prepared and cover all your bases things should work out just fine. And if your little ones decide to cry, they are children so others on the flight should understand (you can always ignore the comments, you will most likely never see these people again!). It always seems worse when it is happening to you (believe me I thanked my lucky stars that it wasn’t my kid crying the whole flight down to Florida, but I truly felt for the parents that were going through it), but it really isn’t that bad. On the way down my girls both slept for almost two hours (and it was only a 3 hour flight!), I didn’t know what to do with myself! Safe travels, bon voyage!

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